When most people want a good story, they read a book (or a blog? Heh). But sometimes, a song tells an interesting or even powerful short story. Here’s a list of some of my faves, in no particular order…
Charlie Robison – “Desperate Times”
A go-nowhere guy who can’t quite get ahead gets a job as a city cop and robs the bank at which his wife works.
Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”
(Also covered–skillfully so–by Brian Burns)
A play-by-play of the sinking of the cargo ship the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior in the ’70s.
Pearl Jam – “Jeremy”
The adolescent boy who brought the ultimate revenge upon his parents.
Jewel – “Stephenville, Tx”
A lady ages beyond her years when she moves to a tiny Texas town to be with a guy who probably isn’t worth being with.
Bob Seger – “Turn the Page”
(Also covered–very well–by Metallica)
A backstage glimpse of rock-and-roll life on the road.
Genesis – “Driving the Last Spike”
A first-hand look at the rough life and hardship suffered by the Chinese who laid the majority of the railroad tracks across the US.
Mark Knopfler – “Prairie Wedding”
No longer heard of, but was the custom not so long ago – the selection of a marriage partner by way of the postal service.
The Police – “Synchronicity II”
A day in the life of a guy who’s getting it front, back, and sideways up the ass – a dysfunctional family with multiple generations of mental illness, a horrendous commute to a polluted city, and a job he hates, while working alongside people he hates just as intensely. Something’s gotta give…
Rush – “Red Barchetta”
Imagine that owning a car is illegal (and the leftest of the left would rather this idea not be as far off as you think, so don’t scoff). Imagine you have an uncle who still has one, and you get to drive it one day, at top speed, at (of course) great risk…
Queensryche – “Della Brown”
One of millions of examples of what happens to most of those who grow up in dysfunctional families and/or broken homes, especially if the gravity of the situation is compounded by poverty.
Harry Chapin – “Cat’s in the Cradle”
A succinctly-told story of a boy growing up with a loving-but-absent father, to inadvertently become the loving-but-absent adult son.
Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car”
Peering again into the lower end of the socioeconomic continuum, where although the dreams and goals in life are simpler and quite realistic, these folks are so stuck that those dreams/goals are still unattainable.
Bob Dylan – “Tangled Up In Blue”
A colorful (although long, but worth it) narrative from the view of a guy who drifts around the country, meeting a woman who makes an impression on him, and then reuniting with her a long time later.
Harry Chapin – “Taxi”
Another lovely-woven story of two lovers who parted ways, only to be reunited years later.
Slaid Cleaves – “Wrecking Ball”
A young man who stands to inherit the gloom and depression that naturally goes with his father’s mediocre (or failing) construction company.
Brian Burns – “The Train Wreck at Kiowa Creek”
A freight train derails due to heavy freezing rain, taking the bridge (and all the occupants’ lives) with it.
Chris Wall – “Three Across”
A wistful story of unavailable love (his crush is paired with his best friend), friendship (they all still hung out together), nostalgia, and uncontrollable change, set to upbeat music.
Cross Canadian Ragweed – “Jimmy & Annie”
Another musically-upbeat tune, only this time, it’s about a modern-day Bonnie & Clyde.
Darrell Scott – “Uncle Lloyd”
A country song (in which even the guitars seem to cry) about a kid whose family hires a drifter who has abandoned his wife and kids elsewhere and sort of “adopted” the family he works for instead.
Slaid Cleaves – “Breakfast In Hell”
A tale about a logger who lost his life when he fell into the freezing, crowded, rushing river as he broke a large log jam free.
Highwaymen – “Highwayman”
A country song about reincarnation, really – the supergroup of 4 takes turns embodying each of 4 separate lifetimes (and causes of death) that are actually the same person, who promises to return again and again.
Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch – “Flycatcher Jack & Whippoorwill’s Song”
An incredible story of a guy reminiscing of what Oklahoma life was like at its zenith, before he got hurt in the oil patch, as compared to now at its nadir, where everything is gone and has been converted to colorful and vivid memories with many characters and interesting times.
Marty Stuart – “Hobo’s Prayer”
An inside look at the life of a hobo, living in and out of boxcars, eating beans with rusty utensils, and keeping interesting and wise (and quite underrated) characters as friends, nearly-family, and mentors.
Robert Earl Keen – “The Road Goes On Forever”
A girl and a guy who meet by chance end up quickly drowning in a life of crime to support themselves and the man willingly dies by capital punishment for a serious crime she committed.
Rush – “Dreamline”
A mystical legend about a couple who embark on the new, unknown, and simultaneously-hopeful-and -frightening.
Garth Brooks – “Thunder Rolls”
An abused wife finally fights back.
Kenny Rogers – “Harder Cards”
Exact same story except that it’s told from the point of view of the police officer on the scene.
Traci Lords – “Father’s Field”
A nightmare of a rape as told from the viewpoint of the young female victim.
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Poncho & Lefty”
A Mexican bandit who is betrayed by his sidekick, who then escapes, scott-free.